Monday, February 28, 2011

Golf Season 2011 is slowly creeping up on us!

Note: This is really last cross post where I post an article in dedicated blog, in this case “Our Golf” and then upload same post to main blog (this one). But, golf is special so it does deserve a special treatment. I think J.

This afternoon we went to see our favorite local golf course, Tillsonview Fairways, and even though there is still a lot of snow on the ground with only few clear patches showing green grass and a promise of things to come, the owners, Ben and Janet were there. Well, we don’t really know for sure but there was a car right in front of clubhouse side door. It won’t be long now! Time to start cleaning the golf bags, check spikes on shoes and clean the shoes, something that should have been done last fall L. Then I have to check and change the grips if necessary, groove the wedges, check lofts and lies of club heads…what a busy time it is going to be for me: flower seedlings, spray and prune peach tree, start veggies, golf equipment, etc. And I’m loving it!

Last cross-post.

“The Peach Tree” was a last post on this Blog that I have cross-posted. As of tomorrow all posts about food, garden and golf will be posted on their own Blogs and all my other ramblings about everything else (pottery, travel, books etc.) will be posted here. If you want to see what I am up to in a kitchen, just click on “My Food and Recipes” link. Since there are links at top of page, all new posts are just a click away. There was just too much going on so I had to reorganize. Yes, growing pains just hit me after 122 posts.
If you have some suggestion for layout or organization, leave me a comment.

The Peach Tree

It looks like I will have to focus my attention on our peach tree. We bought our Peach Reliance (it can tolerate -30°C) 4 years ago and brought it home in a trunk of our Toyota Avalon and now it is about 12 feet tall. Last season it gave us at least 250 super succulent and sweet peaches. Very soon I will have to prune the branches and then spray with copper and insecticidal soaps, something that I just couldn’t do last spring. If it wasn’t raining it was very windy and because I couldn't spray I have paid for it with lots of curled leaf damage. However, the tree recovered quite nicely. I hate to cut the branches and loose all the fruit but it is basic maintenance that I just have to learn to be comfortable with.
After the peach tree I will slowly focus on starting peppers, tomatoes, Japanese eggplants, basil, etc. Two years ago I have build a cold frame so I could have an early. It can be seen at the end (1’: 25sec.) of my movie on this post.
Spring is just around the corner!
Memory of Summer.

Tenderloin with Sour Cream Sauce and Dumplings

Svíčková na Smetanĕ s Knedlíkem
Just like Pork Roast, Sauerkraut and Dumplings this is a typical Sunday lunch or supper but since tenderloin is so much more expensive then pork roast it is a very special meal. Also the fact that it takes a lot more work to prepare makes it even more special. There is a lot of chopping involved but food processor or mini chopper makes it a breeze. Same goes for finishing the sauce with immersion blender. Since both cuts of beef are quite dry the meat is larded.  
2 lb beef tenderloin or eye of round (not as tender)
1 large carrot, peeled and very finely chopped
1 onion, peeled and very finely chopped
Celeriac, about 1/4, peeled and very finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and very finely chopped
2 slices of 3/8” thick bacon fat cut into 3/8” strips
1-1/2 cups beef or chicken stock
Freshly ground:
6 Allspice
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
6 cloves
1 bay leaf

1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. flour
Lard the meat and tie with butcher twine every 3”.
Season with ground spices on all sides and place into a heavy, sealable bag. Put all chopped vegetables in the bag together with meat and close the bag while removing as much air as possible. Distribute the vegetables until they cover all sides of meat. Place in refrigerator and marinate overnight.
Next day, remove meat and vegetables from bag, scrape all vegetables from meat, set aside and reserve vegetables.

Beef is ready for frying pan. Dumplings are raising in the background.
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Heat a frying pan on high, add 1 Tbs. of oil and brown meat on all sides, about 3 minutes on each side. Move to a roasting pan.
In the same frying pan cook reserved vegetables till lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Remove to roasting pan and place most vegetables under the meat.
Pour in the stock, cover pan and bring to boil. When stock starts to boil turn off the heat and move the pan on middle rack in oven and roast (braise), covered, for 1-1/2 hours or till internal temperature reaches 140 °F.
Meanwhile, steam the dumplings that were made ahead.
Remove meat to plate, cover with aluminum foil and let rest.
Scrape all fond (brown coating on side of roasting pan) into vegetables and pour into high sided sauce pan. Using immersion blender, liquefy the sauce till smooth.
Place sauce pan on heat and bring to simmer. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk sour cream with flour till smooth and well combined. Pour in a cup or so of hot vegetable sauce and whisk till smooth (to temper the sauce). Remove all the sour cream mixture back into sauce pan, mix and reheat. Do not bring to hard boil, just a very gentle simmer. Pour in accumulated juices from meat into sauce pan and mix.
Ladle in some sauce on preheated plate, slice the meat and place on sauce together with dumpling slices. Serve with Pilsner Urquell.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Calf Liver with Mushrooms & Spaetzle

If you serve this meal to dedicated liver or offal hater they will lick their chops not knowing what they just ate, it is that good. After all prep is done it takes just minutes to cook and serve. I highly recommend to cook Spaetzle or pasta ahead of time, just before starting to fry liver. Spaetzle can be reheated by tossing them in butter when you are reducing wine in the sauce.
This is not lean cuisine by any stretch of imagination but once in a while I don't think it will hurt. It is rich and it is very, very good. To make it even more luxurious, just before serving I put in few drops of truffle oil. The aroma just made it very special.
Note: You can substitute thin slices of pork tenderloin in place of liver. The cooking method is exactly the same.

§    1 lb liver, beef or calf, all membranes and veins removed and liver cut into thin slices
§    2 Tbs. grape seed or vegetable oil
§    2 cups of sliced Cremini mushrooms
§    5 shallots, sliced or 1 small onion, chopped
§    1 tsp. caraway seeds, ground
§    1 tsp. white pepper or to taste
§    1 tsp. Kosher salt
§    1 cup dry white wine
§    3/4 cup (6oz.) 35% cream
§    Nutmeg
§    2 Tbs. chopped parsley
§    Spaetzle or broad noodles
Preheat a bowl and keep at hand. Dry liver strips with paper towel and then toss with 1 Tbs. of oil.
Cook spaetzle, toss with butter and keep warm.
Heat up stainless steel skillet and when hot add 1 Tbs. of oil. When very hot drop in liver strips in one layer and brown for about 30 seconds and then turn all strips on other side and cook another 30 seconds. With slotted spoon remove liver to preheated bowl, sprinkle generously with salt, toss and keep warm. Discard all oil from skillet, put back on medium high heat and add 1/2 Tbs. of oil. Drop in shallots and mushrooms together with caraway seeds and white pepper and sauté while scraping fond from bottom of skillet. When mushrooms are soft and shallots are translucent increase heat to high, pour in the wine and reduce wine to approximately 1/4 cup. Pour in cream, stir and reduce till sauce is thick and looks velvety. Return liver strips together with accumulated juices to skillet, sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg and stir till liver is reheated and coated with sauce.
Serve on individual plates with spaetzle and garnished with chopped parsley.


Spaetzle is a German/Austrian type of fresh pasta. The fresh dough has a consistency that is between bread dough and pancake batter. You can make it in a stand mixer using paddle or mix it by hand in a bowl.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

Mix together flour, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Beat eggs well, add milk and mix until smooth.
Press dough/batter through spaetzle maker, or scrape small pieces of the dough off the wood cutting board edge into boiling water. When spaetzle come to surface cook additional 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with cold water and when cool remove with strainer and drain.
Sauté cooked spaetzle in butter.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Orchid Collection

This is something that I have absolutely nothing to do with, except on occasion encouraging my wife to buy more. Unfortunately or is it fortunately, space is limited and so is the collection. From what I see, orchids are complicated but beautiful plants. I didn’t know that they don’t like direct sun in general but when you think about it there isn’t too much direct sun close to the jungle floor so it is logical. Orchid and rose gardening are specialty fields, something that I don’t have too much patience for, I am afraid, even though I have done very well with growing heritage Victorian climbing roses from cuttings. I will have a post about them when they start to bloom.
Here is a mini gallery of Marjo’s orchids and I will update as each starts to bloom.

All the orchids that Marjo grows are Phalaenopsis.

I forgot to mention that I have made all of the orchid pots pictured at top. All of them are my original design and hand build with stoneware clay using slab construction and fired and glazed at cone 6.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Penne

In Slow Cooker
Another comfort food that is better next day. This version is no-fuss, slow cooker job. I cooked tomato sauce in slow cooker for 8 hours one day, stored most of the sauce for future use and then cooked the browned ribs in 2 cups of sauce left over and served next day. The flavor was incredible. I can just imagine how this sauce with shredded short ribs meat would shine in a Lasagna. That is exactly what I will do with my leftovers.
This recipe looks more complicated in writing then it is in reality.
1-1/2 Lb beef short ribs, fat trimmed
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, shredded
1-1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbs. hot paprika
1/2 dry Marsala wine
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dry rosemary or 1 tsp. fresh, chopped fine
1 tsp. dry basil
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Turn the heat on a crock pot to Low - 6 hours.
Sprinkle the ribs generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a heavy bottomed skillet, add olive oil and when oil starts to smoke drop in ribs and brown on all sides. When all pieces are golden brown move them to preheated crock pot.
Pour off all oil leaving just a thin film. Stir in garlic, onions, carrot and paprika and sauté till soft. Off the heat pour in Marsala and deglaze the skillet. Put back on a heat and reduce till only 1 Tbs. of Marsala remains.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar and rosemary and bring to boil. When boiling, turn off the heat and empty the skillet over the ribs in crock pot. The liquid should almost cover the ribs. Meanwhile cook penne till al dente. Close to end of cooking add balsamic vinegar and lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
For smoother texture and richer sauce remove ribs to serving platter or individual plates and using immersion blender liquefy the sauce.
Serve the ribs on deep platter with sauce and penne and garnish with chopped parsley.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Salmon Teriyaki with Glass Noodle Salad.

This is such a nice, fast summer dish. Once the glass noodles (mung bean noodle) are soaked it is just a matter of minutes to assemble, cook and serve.
The taste and texture of room temperature noodle salad and hot salmon is incredible. This dish is great any time of a year but it shines in summer months.
Serves 2
Salmon fillet, boneless and skin removed, 2 pieces
1/2 tsp. Sesame oil
1 tsp. Peanut oil
4 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce

Glass noodles, 2 bundles
1 small carrot, finally julienned
2 green onions (scallions), shredded
1” piece of ginger, shredded
1/3 cup coriander leaves
Zest from 1 lime
1 Tbs. Fish sauce
1 Tbs. Mirin
Juice from 1/2 lime
Hot sauce, to taste
Asparagus, 10 spears, stems chopped and spears reserved
Enokitake mushrooms
Avocado, 1/2 pit and skin removed and sliced
Soak noodles in warm water for 1/2 hour, drain and cut with scissors to 4” long strands. Boil water in a pot, drop noodles in and 5 seconds later drain in a strainer and run under cold water to stop cooking process. Drain again and reserve in a large mixing bowl.
In a skillet heat 1 tsp. of peanut oil and 1/2 tsp. of sesame oil and stir fry the ginger, asparagus stems and white parts of scallions till soft. Turn the heat and stir in carrots. Remove all contents from skillet into a bowl with noodles and mix.
In a bowl mix all dressing ingredients, pour over noodles and mix till well combined. Serve noodles on individual plates.
Heat up same skillet with another 1 tsp. peanut oil and 1/2 tsp. sesame oil and when oil starts to smoke add salmon skin side down (skin side is flat) and cook till browned, about 2 minutes. Turn over and cook for 2 minutes. Add teriyaki sauce and asparagus spears and cook till sauce has thickened and fish starts to flake. Do not over cook! Remove salmon and asparagus and place on top of noodles. Garnish with avocado slices, Enokitake mushrooms and green onions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Garden and Trailing Snapdragon Update 2

This is what my Snappies looked like after spending their first night in a brand new bed. Not only that, but in a room 3°C cooler then previous night. Of course, it was a gradual transformation.
 I have learned so much with this project so far. Since I am a newbie to flower growing from seeds there are so many variables to learn and to take care of. Now I know that light has to be as close to plant as possible and they do NOT like wet feet. If the leaves are yellow you have too much water. And the lessons are learned every darned day. I do have to thank the staff at Johnny’s Seeds for all the help I got by email to get me through some rough spots. Next, I have to find out how much direct sunlight can they get and for how long and also how much to fertilize from now on. So much to learn! Isn’t gardening wonderful!
I forgot to mention that today I have also planted Trailing Petunia, Salpiglossis Royal Mix, Nasturtium and Thunbergia and transferred Snapdragon Rocket to larger pots. I do have a problem with Black Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia) germinating and I don’t know why. They are in Jiffy pots for a week now and not a sign. If anybody has a suggestion my ears are open. Maybe I am impatient?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ham and Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Roll

I had half of pork tenderloin on hand and wasn’t so sure how am I going to cook it. It’s too cold outside to consider BBQ, schnitzel we had not long ago so I have settled on making a roll. I have used tenderloin before in Pork Tenderloin Roulade so the stuffing had to be different. After going through the fridge I came up with shallots, cremini mushrooms, celery and chopped ham that were sautéed and when cooled mixed with Mozzarella cheese and seasoned with Herbes de Provence, fresh chopped rosemary, chopped parsley, balsamic vinegar, white pepper and hot sauce and deglazed with 1/2 cup of dry Marsala. Tenderloin was cut lengthwise almost through, opened up and flattened with mallet between 2 sheets of plastic film. The whole process can be seen on this video from Food Wishes. I used different stuffing but process is exactly the same. Roll the meat, tie it up and roast at 375 °F for 30 minutes. I have roasted parboiled and quartered red potatoes in same pan and at the same time. The taste of this roll was incredible, it had a hint of game meat, like a rolled venison breast. The Herbes de Provence, rosemary, Marsala and Balsamic vinegar just shined through.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seafood Mix Fried Rice

This is experiment #2 with seafood mix that contains ingredients with different cooking times. As I pointed out in my recipe for Seafood Mix with Pasta, this presents quite a challenge for a cook. After I have prepared the fried rice one thing became very clear to me: the mix has to be just heated through. If you cook it much longer then 2 minutes you end up with some tough inedible seafood. Another thing I discovered is that I had much better results if I thawed out the mix in cold water for about 1/2 hour, drained and marinated in appropriate seasonings. The squid rings and cuttlefish slabs benefited the most; they have perfect texture when cooked.
As is with any fried rice recipe, this one has few steps. Fried rice is not a meal where you plop a pot on a stove and walk away.  When you wok, you wok non-stop J.
Ingredients (in order of prep):
1 tsp. peanut oil
2 beaten eggs with 1 tsp. rice wine and pinch of salt
1 tsp. peanut oil
1/2” piece of ginger, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 scallions, cut into 1” pieces and white and green parts separated
4 water chestnuts, diced
1/2 cup green peas
1 Chinese sausage (Lap Chong), steamed for 10 minutes and sliced on diagonal
I leaf Napa cabbage, shredded or 1 cup blanched bean sprouts
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced (cremini, shitake, oyster or King oyster)
1 tsp. peanut oil
2 cups day old and refrigerated rice, clumps broken into individual grains
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen seafood mix, soaked and defrosted in 3 cups of cold water
1/2” piece of ginger, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. rice wine
2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
Prepare all ingredients in 5 bowls.
  1. Beat eggs in bowl 1 with 1 tsp. rice wine and pinch of salt and reserve.
  2. In a large bowl #2 mix pepper, white part of scallions, water chestnuts, green peas, Lap Chong, cabbage and mushrooms and reserve.
  3. In large bowl #3 add the rice and separate into individual grains. The rice should be very cold. Sprinkle with salt and reserve.
  4. In a bowl #4 add drained seafood mix and toss with ginger, garlic, rice wine, fish sauce and sesame oil. Mix till all ingredients are well coated.
  5. Heat up a large steel bowl #5 and keep close to wok.
  1. Heat a wok and add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. When wok is very hot add eggs from bowl #1 and scramble lightly. Remove to preheated bowl, break up the eggs, set aside and keep warm.
  2. Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Add ingredients from bowl #2 and stir fry for about a minute. Remove to bowl with eggs.
  3. Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Drop in the rice and stir fry till rice is evenly coated and grains are separated and rice is lightly colored. Remove to bowl with eggs.
  4. Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Drop in bowl #4 and cook for 1 minute.
Add all contents of bowl #5, mix till all ingredients are well combined and serve in one large serving plate or individual bowls. Sprinkle fried rice with green parts of scallions and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Apple Peeler

Courtesy Lee Valley & Veritas Tools.

Originally this post was to be an Apple Pie recipe but since there are tons out there on internet and after looking at the pictures I have decided to post about a tool that made the apple pie a breeze. I’m not talking about my food processor that helped a lot with the dough even though I still had to hand kneaded it, neither am I talking about my 18” square marble tile that helped to keep the dough cold (I chucked the tile on a bank of snow for few minutes J). Both of these kitchen tools helped a great deal to make my butter/lard pie dough super flaky. The tool that helped me the most was an Apple Peeler from Lee Valley. In about 5 minutes (minus time for picture taking) I had 6 huge Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, sliced and slices quartered.
I found a movie from manufacturer on YouTube that shows the peeler in action. Years ago I bought apple peeler that was about 70 years old and it looked the same. You just can’t improve on this relatively simple design.

Note: I posted the recipe anyway J

Apple Pie

For the last month I was promising my wife that I’ll bake her apple pie. Two weeks ago I bought the apples, unsalted butter and lard so I was ready to bake the pie, I just didn’t get around to it. Then on Saturday I started to prepare my mise-en-place for my thin crust pizza and came across the apples. Immediately I thought that since I will have to use oven why not to bake apple pies before. Well, it was already 2 PM and I had only 3 hours to make them from scratch:
Peel, core and slice apples, prepare and rest the dough, roll the dough, line the pie pans and bake the pies. I was slammed bad! I was in the really tall weeds before I even started! Peeling, coring and slicing the apples wasn’t a problem because I have nifty hand machine that does all three tasks at the same time. The dough is another story. In order for baked pie dough to be light and flaky it has to be worked as little as possible and it has to stay as cold as possible through the whole process. And, it needs a rest, like at least 1/2 an hour in coldest part of fridge. For dough I used fool proof formula of 3-2-1 ratio for flour-fat-water and for fat I used 1 part butter and 1 part pure lard. Since my butter and lard were in freezer all I had to do is carefully cut off amount I needed and grate it directly into the flour, put the mix in my Cuisinart, pulse it couple of times, add ice cold water and pulse it again twice or 3 times. Before I started to work on the dough I put my marble slab outside in the snow. In summer I put it in freezer for few minutes. From food processor dough is placed on a cold slab and kneaded till the dough holds together and you can form a ball. Place in plastic bag flatten and put the bag in coldest part of fridge for at least 1/2 an hour.
Hardest part over, it was time to assemble.
Pie Dough:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup pure lard
1 cup ice cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
6 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
zest from 1 lemon
lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
1/3 cup potato or corn starch
1/3 cup Sultan raisins
1/3 cup chopped walnuts.
Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl. Using a standard box or potato grater grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss lightly with your fingers until it is thoroughly combined.  Sprinkle in ice water and mix with your fingers until the dough comes together in a ball.  Divide it into two pieces, making sure one half is slightly larger than the other.  Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least 30 minutes or even overnight. Resting will help tenderize the pastry and make it easier to roll.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly, just until it is pliable. Lightly flour your hands, the rolling pin, your work surface and the dough. Roll out the larger pastry disc into a circle large enough to slightly overlap the edges of an 8-inch glass pie dish. Transfer the dough to the pie dish by folding it into quarters then unfolding it in the dish.
Preheat your oven to 450°.
Toss the apples with all other filling ingredients. Add the apples to the bottom crust then roll out the remaining smaller disc and carefully place over the top of the pie.  Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together, tightly sealing them.  Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie and place on the bottom rack of oven.
Baked for 10 minutes in 450 °F oven and then lower temperature to 350 °F and baked for another 45 minutes or until the crust is golden and juices are bubbling.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry

This is so easy and fast to make that it will be my favorite standby on a busy days in any season. When I say fast I mean fast, provided that you have teriyaki sauce on hand.
4 skinless and boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
4 green onions (scallions) cut into 1” pieces
4 fresh or 8 canned water chestnuts, halved and sliced
3 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce.
2 cups rice
Marinate the chicken pieces in teriyaki sauce and keep refrigerated.
Steam the rice, fluff it up and keep warm.
When rice is ready, heat up dry wok or non-stick frying pan and when very hot drop in marinated chicken. Stir to cook on all sides for 2 minutes.
Add green onions and water chestnuts and stir fry for additional 3 minutes.
Remove to preheated plate or bowl and serve with rice.
Nice addition to this meal is simple cucumber salad consisting of 1/2 an English cucumber sliced thin and tossed in dressing made with 1 Tbs. Mirin and 1 Tbs. seasoned rice vinegar.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baguette French Toasts

This version of French toast is not only great breakfast food but also great snack while traveling in a car. This recipe is a 2 days and 3 steps process.
Day old, or older, baguette is sliced into 1-1/2” thick slices and soaked overnight in a milk/egg mixture and then next day cooked in frying pan or griddle and then baked. All this work is worth the little effort.
1 white flour baguette, sliced 1-1/2” thick
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Whisk together eggs and milk then add sugar, salt, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix till well combined.
Place baguette slices in a sealable plastic bag, pour mixture over slices and seal bag while squeezing out as much air as possible. Make sure that all slices are submerged in egg mixture and store in refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a hot lightly oiled non-stick frying pan or griddle cook the slices in batches till both sides are lightly golden, about 3 minutes per side. Place cooked slices on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn slices over and bake additional 15 minutes or till both sides are puffed up and golden brown.
When done, remove from oven and place slices on a cooling rack.
For breakfast, serve with maple syrup.

Chicken Wings – Char Siu

I buy all my chickens and chicken parts at local Poultry Specialist store. Every Wednesday they sell the freshest chickens. Yesterday, among other parts, I bought their huge chicken wings. They are big and very meaty and take 2 hours to bake at 350°F! I can only eat 3 at a time and since I made a big batch of char siu sauce that is what I have used. Sticky, delicious heaven.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trailing Snapdragon Update.

It is almost a month now that I have started trailing snapdragon from a seeds. Considering, that at the start I have made a serious mistake by having the grow light too high, the seedlings are doing just fine. Last week I have started to fertilize with reduced fish emulsion liquid mix and they seem to get stronger by a day. Now I have to find out when I transplant to a bigger pot or hanging basket and when to start pinching the tops.

By May I hope to have this basket!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Japanese Egg Custard - Chawanmushi

Very first time we ate this dish in our favorite sushi restaurant we felt in love with it. It is the lightest egg custard you can imagine and so easy to make. As far as what goes in beside egg and dashi stock is up to you. The classical version has just shrimp, shitake mushroom, ginkgo nuts and sometimes piece of chicken breast. I didn’t have gingko so I substituted with sweet fresh water chestnut and instead chicken I used ham. Also I didn’t have fresh shitake so I soaked dry mushroom and then simmered in sweetened teriyaki sauce for 15 minutes. I have also added parboiled green beans. If you don’t have a special Chawanmushi bowl with lid you can use coffee mug and cover it with aluminum foil. For each cup, mug or bowl you will need:
1 egg
1 cup dashi or chicken stock
1 shitake mushroom, sliced into strips
2 large raw shrimps,  peeled and each cut into 4 pieces
2 green beans, parboiled and cut in half
Small piece of cooked chicken breast
Beat the egg in a larger bowl and then add cool stock.
Place all other ingredients in individual bowls and pour egg mixture on top leaving about 1/2” space from top.
Cover the bowls and place in a steamer and steam for 15 – 20 minutes or till custard is set but still moist.
Serve immediately.

Ready for egg and stock mixture.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shanghai Flat Noodle Stir Fry

Let’s just say that I had a hard time to figure out what do I call tonight’s dish. It is my original creation based on what I bought in Chinese market and what else was available to me. Even though I bought new carbon steel round bottom wok and seasoned it same day I didn’t want to use it till I stir-fry some green onions and garlic in it to remove the metallic taste. So, my trusty 12” pan was called to duty.
Anyway, fresh ingredients from market were flat Shanghai noodles, fresh water chestnuts and Lap Chong (Chinese sausage). I bought 2 kinds but in this dish I used pork and duck liver Lap Chong. I have used this sausage before many times but never correctly. I have never steamed it before using it in a recipe. What a difference the 20 minute steaming makes! It is so good! And so was this meal. Let’s just say that my wife was just oo-hing and ah-ing through the whole meal. Of course, the fact that Shanghai flat noodles have incredible texture if cooked correctly doesn’t hurt. Here is just a recall of ingredients and process. Very, very seldom do I use somebody else’s recipes, so do the same, be creative. If I remember correctly I used garlic, ginger, green onions, Chinese black mushrooms, fresh water chestnuts, steamed Lap Chong, green beans, red pepper and chicken tenders. Sauce included soaking water from mushrooms, rice wine, Hoisin sauce, Oyster sauce, Sriracha and sugar. It is another must have again and soon stir fry.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seafood Mix with Pasta

Last week while shopping in supermarket I spotted 2 Lb bag of seafood mix. It looked so fresh and had a mix of clams, squid rings and tentacles, small slabs of cuttlefish and small shrimps. Since I know that each item requires different cooking time I turned to Chowhound discussion board. For 2 days we went back and forth about best way to prepare it. Originally I was considering seafood risotto, then there were suggestions of a hot pot and few others. I definitely will try the hot pot. Anyway, I have finally settled on cooking it in tomato sauce and serve it with fresh fettuccine. My wife declared it absolutely amazing and a definite and regular repeat.
There isn’t really much of a recipe. I just heated tomato sauce with 2 Tbs. of leftover béchamel sauce and when hot I added the seafood mix that was thawed out and at room temperature. Cook for no more then 3 minutes and at very end mix in 1 Tbs. of chopped parsley. Since this meal is so quick, cook the pasta before, toss in butter and keep warm. Serve the sauce on top of pasta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oriental Enokitake Soup

After all the thick, seasonal comfort soups that I have prepared lately I just felt for something clear and light. Today we went shopping in Asia Chinese Supermart in London and among other stuff I bought pack of King Oyster mushrooms and 2 bunches of Enokitake mushrooms. The King Oyster has a texture and taste of meat when sautéed in butter till nicely caramelized.
For the soup I used chicken stock that was simmered with 1 clove of crushed garlic and 1” of crushed and julienned ginger and 1 chopped green onion. Just before serving I have added 2 thin slices of caramelized King Oyster mushrooms and about 2 dozens of Enokitake mushrooms. When served I garnished with additional chopped green onions and chopped coriander leaves. The texture of both of these mushrooms is amazing. This will be an excellent soup to finish barbecue meal in summer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fried Rice with Char Siu

Barbecue Pork Fried Rice
It is absolutely amazing in how many Chinese dishes this great barbecued pork is used. Dim Sums, soups, noodles, rice and even deserts! This pork fried rice is another restaurant favorite. To make it at home traditional way is, as usual, a bit tedious since everything has to be cut in uniform sizes and cuts and then each item is cooked separately. As with so many dishes less is sometimes more. By substituting just one or two items will change the texture and taste of a dish that it is in reality another item on most restaurants menus. It is always better to use at least one day old and refrigerated long grain rice.
Here is my version of this dish.
1 cup Char Siu, cut into 1/4” strips
12 large shrimps, shell, tail and veins removed
1 carrot, julienned
3 Chinese mushrooms
2 green onions
1/2 cup green beans
1/2 cup green peas
1” piece ginger, chopped
Garlic, 1 clove chopped
2 eggs
3 cups leftover and refrigerated rice
2 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. white pepper

Preparation (mise en place):
§    Soak mushrooms in hot water for at least 1/2 hour. Remove stems and cut into 1/4” slices. Reserve 1/4 cup of the water.
§    Marinate shrimps in 1 Tbs. of rice wine and sprinkle of salt, sugar and white pepper.
§    Cut ends of green beans and cut diagonally into 1” pieces. Parboil for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain and plunge into cold water. Drain again and set aside.
§    Peel and julienne carrots into 1/4” pieces. Parboil for 1 minute in boiling salted water. Drain and plunge into cold water. Drain again and set aside.
§    Cut green onions diagonally into 1” pieces and separate white and green parts.
§    Soak frozen green peas in salted hot water for 1/2 hour, drain and set aside.
§    Beat eggs in a bowl with fork, add salt and white pepper and set aside.
§    Crush and chop ginger and garlic and set aside.
§    Break up clumps of cold rice till you have individual grains. Set aside
1/4 cup mushroom soaking water
1 Tbs. of Oyster sauce
1 Tbs. of Hoisin sauce
Stir together all ingredients till well combined.

§    Heat a wok and add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. When wok is very hot add eggs and scramble lightly. Remove to preheated bowl, break up the eggs, set aside and keep warm.
§    Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt and drop in the rice. Stir till rice is evenly coated and grains are separated. Remove to bowl with eggs.
§    Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Add shrimps with marinade and stir-fry for 1 minute. Remove to bowl with rice and eggs and keep warm.
§    Wipe the wok clean, add 1 tsp. of oil and spread with steel spatula till sides are well coated. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for few seconds then add mushrooms and stir.
§    Add the pork strips and stir till heated through.
§    Add previously prepared green beans, green peas, carrots and white parts of green onions. Stir-fry till well combined.
§    Add reserved rice, shrimps and eggs and mix well till all ingredients are very hot.
§    Pour sauce on side of wok and stir.
Serve immediately in individual preheated bowls and garnish with green parts of onions.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Braised Fragrant Pork Belly

My version of Chinese classic comfort food

Last week I got my newest cookbook "Mastering the Art Of Chinese Cooking" by
Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. Very good book even though in places it is a bit dictatorial for my taste, I am a free wheeler cook. There are quite a few “you must do this”, “you must use that” etc. Still, an excellent book.
Anyway, yesterday I was reading about slow cooked pork bellies and I just had to have it. Alas, no pork belly, just a thick slices on plain bacon. Good substitute, I thought. Out came my earthenware pot, ginger, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, tangerine peel, hot chilies, yellow rock sugar, sake, dark soy sauce, green onions and of course the bacon. Wasn’t bad at all but next time I’ll include some Chinese mushrooms for texture. Since the bacon was only 1/4” thick it was cooked in less then and hour.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tripe Dim Sum

Anybody that reads my blog on regular basis must have noticed that I like tripes. Yup, I like tripes a lot! On my last visit to supermarket I passed by meat isle and the Styrofoam tray of tripes was so irresistible that I had to take it home. The second I laid my eyes on it I knew how I am going to cook it – Steamed Tripe Dim Sum. Actually, it is a trice cooked dish: boiled for 2 hours, then briefly stir fried and finally steamed. Lots of work for something that is inhaled in minutes, I have to say. One important note: Traditionally, this dish is done with book or bible tripes but since they are not available in my small town I have to use what I have.
1 lb tripe
2 green onions cut in 1” pieces, green and white parts separated
1-1/2” piece of ginger, smashed and julienned
1 large clove garlic, chopped
Hot pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup salt
Blanch the tripes in plenty of boiling water for 3 – 5 minutes.
Drain and wash the tripes and pot.
In a same pot with fresh water place tripes, salt and vinegar and bring to boil on high. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 2 hours or till tender but still with some crunch left.
Drain, cool and let dry. Previous steps can be done in one day and following 2 steps next day.
When tripes are dry, heat a wok with a bit of oil and when hot drop in garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and white parts of green onions and stir fry briefly.
Add tripes and stir fry till all ingredients are well mixed.
Remove to steaming dish, place in a steamer, cover and steam for 20 minutes.
Serve with the bamboo steamer with green onions sprinkled on top of tripes.

Happy Lunar Year of a Cat to Vietnamese friends and Year of a Rabbit to Chinese. Mind you, we have an issue with destructive rabbits in our garden!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Char Siu Pork with Crispy Noodles

Chinese Barbecue Pork Chow Mein

Even though the actual stir-fry takes about 3 minutes to make the two main ingredients take a bit longer. The Char Siu pork can be done few days ahead and noodles will take just over half an hour and they too can be done ahead.
Serves 2
1 cup Char Siu pork, shredded into larger pieces 1/4” thick
3 Chinese mushrooms
1/2 carrot, julienned
16 – 20 Snow peas, ribs removed
2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1” piece of ginger, chopped
2 tsp peanut oil
1/2 cup mushroom soaking liquid
1 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs. Oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp corn starch
In a small bowl mix all ingredients till well combined
Chinese egg chow mein noodles, 2 bundles
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
Boil noodles according to instructions on a package drain well and divide into 2 equal bundles.
Heat 1/2 Tbs. of peanut oil and 1/2 tsp. of sesame oil in nonstick frying pan, add noodles and spread evenly. Cook till light brown crust forms on bottom. Turn over and crisp up other side. Place on cookie sheet lined with paper towel and place in 200 °F oven. Repeat with second bundle of noodles.
Stir fry:
Soak the mushrooms till soft, remove stems and julienne. Reserve soaking liquid for sauce.
Heat oil in a wok till very hot. Add oil and coat sides of wok with oil using steel spatula. Add garlic and ginger and stir fry for few seconds. Add mushrooms and carrots and 1 Tbs. of soaking liquid. Stir fry for few seconds then add shredded char siu, snow peas and sauce. Cook till sauce thickens a bit and snow peas turn light green.
Place noodles on preheated serving plates, pour wok contents on top and garnish with green onions.